The National Park Service and the Republic of Palau are Working Together to Protect the Ocean

Since the beginning of time our well-being has been closely tied to the ocean and its health. Oceans cover two thirds of Earth. They are the main source of the air that we breathe, since they produce most of our oxygen. Oceans also provide us with high-protein foods and medicine, and they play a major role in regulating the weather and climate. It is critical that we work together to protect our oceans from the numerous threats to their health, such as overfishing, pollution, climate change, because this all ultimately impacts us and our well-being.

Oceans connect us. What happens in one part of the ocean can impact places far away, whether it is migrating wildlife, trash moving thousands of miles, etc. The National Park Service manages 88 ocean and Great Lakes parks across 23 states and four territories. But we also partner with places and parks across the globe to support the conservation of marine areas, because our sites are often connected to other places and because we learn best practices from other park agencies facing similar challenges. The National Park Service’s Office of International Affairs coordinates these partnerships with counterparts in other countries.

An example of such is the National Park Service’s partnership with the Republic of Palau. Under this partnership the National Park Service is assisting Palau, an island nation in the western pacific, with managing their protected area network and planning for future visitor use. A Memorandum of Understanding was signed in April of 2022 during a ceremony at Ngardok Nature Reserve in Melekeok State, home to the largest body of freshwater in the Micronesia region and a variety of species native to Palau. The site is now serving as the marine pilot site for sustainable visitor use planning framework, that will then be applied to other protected areas in Palau such as the Rock Islands Lagoon, one of UNESCO’s 50 Marine World Heritage sites. The United States, through the National Park Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has been an active participant in the UNESCO Marine World Heritage site managers’ group.

seven man posing for a photo in colorful shirts under a hut
Palauan and U.S officials celebrate the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two countries during a ceremony at Ngardok Nature Reserve in Palau April 12, 2022

NPS Photo

Through this partnership, the National Park Service is providing training to Palauan managers on how to make future decisions related to tourism and sustainable visitor use. On the other hand, the Republic of Palau is a leader in climate change and marine protection. More than 80% of Palau’s national waters make up the Palau National Marine Sanctuary, one of the largest marine protected areas in the world. Based on traditional cultural wisdom of conservation, the Sanctuary was created to protect habitats that are critical to the community’s food security and helps protect endangered species worldwide. The National Park Service will use the knowledge learned from their expertise to inform planning and management of island and marine sites here at home. Together we are using our combined knowledge to ensure that our oceans are protected from human use and environmental changes well into the future.

The Republic of Palau and the United States share an important relationship under the Compact of Free Association. Under the Compact, the United States, through the Department of the Interior, provides economic and financial assistance, defends Palau's territorial integrity, and allows uninhibited access by Palauan citizens to the United States in return for exclusive and unlimited access to Palau's land and waterways for strategic purposes.

Last updated: June 22, 2022